Caring for a Loved One’s Mental Health During the Colder Months
As cold weather arrives, people will begin to spend more time indoors. This transition often affects people’s mental health, and this year issues could be exacerbated due to social distancing guidelines in place. These conditions would be particularly challenging for seniors, a population that already faces higher levels of isolation.
Here are some practices that seniors should adopt at home in the cold months ahead to maintain their mental health:
Even though winter hasn’t come quite yet, there are helpful habits seniors can start practicing now so that when winter does hit, they’ve already adopted means of coping. The most important practice they should begin is mindfulness. Mindfulness means being still, appreciating the world and taking time to do so intentionally. It means being thankful for the things that are around you and taking note of the spaces you’re in both physically and emotionally. Being silent for just five minutes a day can be a helpful tool for seniors to recenter amid whatever stressors may be causing them anxiety.
Another important practice for seniors is to get regular exercise. The act of exercising and moving around raises endorphins, which helps with pain and helps bring people joy. Also, having a regularly scheduled task such as exercising every day can help give a sense of accomplishing something. For light-impact indoor exercises that require minimal equipment, read our article on exercising while social distancing.
You could also invest in a Wii gaming system for your loved one, which allows people to participate in activities such as bowling, tennis and aerobics virtually without the risks associated with doing those sorts of activities in real life.
Do What Brings Joy
Anything seniors can do that makes them happy, be it movies, knitting, reading, television or cooking, is important as well. Some people may feel guilty as not all of these are traditionally productive activities, but the fact that they can boost a loved one’s mood means they are providing something necessary during these times.
Symptoms and What You Can Do
Two common conditions to look out for among seniors are depression and stress. Symptoms of depression include withdrawal from things your loved one usually enjoys, anxiety, anger, loss of concentration, change in eating habits, insomnia and exhaustion. Symptoms of stress include anxiety, depression, irritability, feeling tired and run-down, difficulty sleeping, overreacting and worsening health problems.
In both instances, there are simple things you can do to help your loved one while in these states. The first thing you can do is make sure to tell them that you are there for them if they need it. Simply let them know, “I’m here if you need me.” Alternatively, if you know they aren’t the sort of person who will ask for help, offer gestures to let them know you’re thinking about them. Offer to drive them somewhere. Take them for a walk. Do their grocery shopping. Send them a card in the mail. You’d be surprised how far small gestures such as these can go.
SAMHSA National Helpline
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
En Español 1-888-628-9454
Text “HELLO” to 741741
Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and press 1
Text to 838255
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